Monday, March 20, 2017

Over the weekend...

Part of a pile of 5 Adders

Neonate. All of 6 inches long and thick as a pencil.

Slow Worm.

On Sunday we had a trip across to Branton Pits, with the intention of checking some forest areas for Goshawks, but in the end, we just drank tea, chatted with other friends and paid our annual respects to the local reptiles. Along the usual spots were 13 Adders including a tiny juvenile or neonate and 3 Slow Worms. I was particularly please with these as they are my first in the county.

 Last night was a decent moth night with 63 moths of 10 species caught. March Moth, Diurnea fagella and this Pine Beauty were all new for the year.

Pine Beauty
Today I was on a holiday ( using them up before April) when news came through that ADMc had found a fleeting male Black throated Thrush near the wintering Great Grey Shrike at Prestwick Carr. He had watched it fly off strongly south but it was luckily relocated by local birder Peter Fletcher where the lads on site, or local enough to be there in 20 minutes, managed to connect. Unfortunately, I had driven 27 of the 30 miles from home only to be greeted with the news that it had flown again, this time off the edge of the map and on to the 'no mans land' that is the local golf course, never to be seen again.

Never mind, these flighty thrushes are sent to try our patience. After last Autumn's Whites Thrush on Holy Island and the Wacky Races style twitch from work, I try not to be greedy!

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Some moths...

This last week has been quite mild up here resulting in a nice kick start to the proper mothing season.

Here is a list of all the moths caught in my garden so far this year...

Code Taxon Vernacular Qty
Agonopterix heracliana agg. Ag heracliana/ciliella 22
17.011 Ypsolopha ustella a moth 1
18.001 Plutella xylostella Diamond-back Moth 1
28.009 Endrosis sarcitrella White-shouldered House-moth 1
49.076 Acleris cristana a moth 1
70.101 Colostygia multistrigaria Mottled Grey 1
70.247 Phigalia pilosaria Pale Brindled Beauty 29
70.251 Biston strataria Oak Beauty 4
70.255 Agriopis marginaria Dotted Border 5
73.069 Xylocampa areola Early Grey 1
73.194 Conistra vaccinii Chestnut 8
73.21 Eupsilia transversa Satellite 4
73.242 Orthosia incerta Clouded Drab 3
73.244 Orthosia cerasi Common Quaker 8
73.249 Orthosia gothica Hebrew Character 42
73.336 Cerastis rubricosa Red Chestnut 4
135 moths of 16 species, is a little slow for the time of year, but its a nice selection to be going on with.

Monday, March 06, 2017

Pipits on the beach.

Boulmer Beach, just along from Seaton Point.
A day off work using up annual leave, so as it was a nice day, I popped down to Seaton Point to scan the pipits on the bank of rotting seaweed. There were at least 30 birds present, but were mostly flighty so impossible to get an accurate number. I plonked myself down and started snapping away. This is what I found...

Littoralis 1

Littoralis 1 as above.

Littoralis 2.

The majority of birds present were Scandinavian Rock Pipits, Anthus spinoletta littoralis. They were in varying states of moult though none were advanced enough to show the very pinky breast and clean grey head.

The ones above, look more like British Rock Pipit, Anthus spinoletta petrosus but could possibly be littoralis too.

The four images above are all of the same bird, Water Pipit, Anthus spinoletta spinoletta. This might be the bird we had here before Christmas? It shows a lot of yellow on the bill, pinkish legs and a very clean white under parts. There is the large dark malar patch ( side of neck) and pale brownish grey upper parts.

  Then we have these -

The two above are of the same individual. It has that sandy brown, meadow pipit look to it with a lot of yellow in the bill. Could it be a second Water Pipit? Its scruffy appearance probably means its another moulting littoralis... 

And this thing, I have no idea...Its a Rock Pipit.

Maybe the whole lot are just Rock Pipits? This is just my interpretation of them. The sooner these are all lumped back to one species the better!

Sunday, March 05, 2017

To the Northumberland Moors....

A reasonable forecast and it being March drew us to head westwards for all of  6 miles from Alnwick. Its always a chancy visit, birding inland during March, but it makes a change.

Today we made a few stops and did some leg knackering walks up muddy slopes onto boggy, tussocky moorland, to be honest, seeing very little. One thing did stand out however, and that was the view...

On the bird front, a few new species of the year made an appearance with 3+ Red Grouse, 20+ Crossbills and a ringtail Hen Harrier. Other than that, 2 pairs of Stonechat, a few Redpolls including a couple of Mealy candidates that were a little too distant or brief to confirm and 8+ Buzzards.

A Roe Deer and a sniper lying prostrate with his rifle ( he was visible to the naked eye at quarter of a mile due to the lack of camouflage on face and hands, take note)  were the only other things of note...

These lichens look like a forest scene from Avatar.

The only bird shot of the day, a Siskin. The forests were full of them. 

Warm sun drying the dew from last night.

Well, you have to, after a long uphill struggle.

Click on this to see the snow capped Cheviots in the distance.

Black Lough

Sunday, February 26, 2017

To Bamburgh and back.

We headed off north this morning, though not far, Bamburgh and back.

On the way, first stop at sunrise was Embleton to see if the Waxwings found by Gary Woodburn ( and present since January) were still around. After a short hunt we found two in a garden near the main road. Photographing them in the poor dawn light, was always going to be tricky, but the birds were very confiding so we were quite close. These images are only very slightly cropped to shape. We were also pointing our cameras in the vague direction of bedroom windows, so after snapping a few shots we left the residents to their privacy!

From here was had a short tea stop at Monks House Pool, Seahouses where 13 Shoveler were quite frisky alongside 20+ Teal, several Tufted Ducks, Mallard, Coot and Little Grebe. The dunes- working Exmoor Ponies came to see us, one enjoying a jammy dodger from John before continuing to munch the coarse grasses down to a reasonable level to increase the local flora.

Budle Bay was next up, with its daunting expanse of mud flats.

Spotted Redshank feeding in creek.

The wintering Spotted Redshank was racing up and down the creek feeding behind three Shovelers constantly that, I assume, were churning up edible morsels for it. Also here were masses of wildfowl including many Teal, Wigeon, Shelduck, 300 Pale bellied Brent Geese, 1000 Pink footed Geese. The waders were in equally large numbers with many Bar tailed Godwit being the highlight. A lone Little Egret looked the part fishing in the close creek.

A nearby feeding station was to be our final stop of the morning. Marsh Tits used to frequent here but, as with this species across the rest of Northumberland, this site now seems devoid of them with none reported in the hide logs since last February. Still we enjoyed nice views of Nuthatch, Treecreeper, Great spotted Woodpecker, Yellowhammer, various Tits and finches.

With the weather not being too bad either, it turned out to be a nice morning all round.


Great spotted Woodpecker

Yellowhammer with a lot of 'pine bunting' chestnut streaking below its throat. Many yellowhammers can show these marks to a greater or lesser degree. 

Last night the first decent moth of 2017 came, an Acleris cristana, a scarce species up here, this is only the 13th for Northumberland.

Acleris cristana, the 13th for Northumberland.

Friday, February 24, 2017

Mothing has started...

As the book says... Pale brindled Beauties...


Monday, February 20, 2017

Two Dippers...

Us, not the bird!

What a lovely day it was on Sunday, with bright sun and blue skies most of the time. My first singing Blackbird of the year was along our drive and Skylarks seem to be all over now.

JWR and myself headed north for a second time this winter to try and catch up with the wintering American Black Scoter off Goswick and Cheswick beaches. Its a great site, this, very scenic with some nice birds too but the target proved elusive again. A good few Common Scoter were in small groups close in but there were hundreds in tight rafts about 2 miles offshore. Way too far for a duck that is tricky at a quarter of that range.

The beach at Goswick and Cheswick stretches for miles...

We tried two vantage points, the first from Cheswick tall dune, the second about half a mile further south at Goswick Golf Club.

No Black Scoter to be had but we did see 1 Black throated Diver N, 1 Great Northern Diver on the sea, 6+ Red throated Divers, 4+ Slavonian Grebes, 50+ ( possibly many more as they were constantly on the move) Long tailed Ducks, 10+ Red breasted Merganser, several Razorbills, Guillemots and Shags, 400+ Common Scoter.

A Stonechat was in the dunes with 20 Reed Bunting nearby and loads of singing Skylarks.

At Cheswick, we checked the goose flock again. There were 99 birds including 2 Tundra Bean Geese, 35 Russian White fronted Geese and the rest, Greylags. A good old number of White fronted Geese there for Northumberland.

From here, we had a walk north from the Holy Island causeway car park at Beal. It was generally quiet, but again, very scenic. 30 Twite drank from a puddle near the track while a very weak looking Knot was out of habitat on a marshy puddle.

  In the afternoon, Jane and myself took a walk along to Howick Hall to catch the snowdrop display in the sunshine. What a show too, there seems to be many more this year with huge drifts everywhere.  After the walk it was only fitting that we try out afternoon tea in the tearooms.

Howick Church

Jane in the snowdrops.

Red Squirrel.
While we were in the tearoom, I noticed a lady taking a photo from the window near her table. I could see the edge of a bird table and suspected what she might be photographing, so I went across and politely asked.

This lovely Red Squirrel was enjoying the feeder for ages, completely unconcerned at the faces at the glass only feet away. After interupting the couple's tea to take some photo's, I left them in peace.